Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Adventures in screen printing

I haven't done much knitting or crocheting of late. Mainly because I have been busy working on a special, secret project which I couldn't talk about until after the most recent LARP event! At the previous event in June, I had agreed to make some sashes for my faction. They needed to look good, but be relatively simple to make as I had to make enough for fifteen people.

I decided the sewing part would be fairly simple, if I made long sashes which were tied on, rather than trying to make sashes to fit exactly. Especially considering the range of sizes in the group of people I was making them for - a huge variety of height and girth across the group. What I struggled with initially was a technique to use to get the symbols onto the sashes that I wanted - eight in total (one representing each of the in-character Gods worshipped in my faction, and one representing the faction itself). After chatting to a couple of friends, and doing some searching on the internet, I settled on screen printing as the most sensible route to take, and found this tutorial and this one. Initially, I thought I would try the embroidery hoop option, especially when I discovered you can now buy Modge Podge in Hobbycraft! But in the end I went for a very quick and lazy stencil only approach, with no screens at all.

Preparing the sashes themselves was a bit more involved than I thought it would be. I bought 4 metres of 100% cotton in a lovely muted cream colour (as I thought white would be a bit too stark and modern for my needs). I tore the material into strips six inches wide, and ironed them out. Then came the endless pinning. I have never spent so much time pinning hems in all my life. Even the excessively long hems on my skirts didn't get that much attention.

It took me a day and a half to pin all the strips of fabric (260 feet of hem!). It then only took me about three hours to sew them all and remove the pins again. Because I was making these for other people, I decided to be very good, and did all the ironing and seam pressing you are meant to do when you sew things. I even top stitched the seams at the shoulder, once I had pinned and sewn the front and back halves together.

For the symbols, I took inspiration from the descriptions of the Gods as listed on my faction's website ( The standard symbols (things like scales of justice, swords etc) didn't seem exciting enough to me, so I was interested when I saw each God had a bird associated with it as well. I immediately went searching on Google for tribal tattoo style images of the birds in question, and made stencils of those.

The stencils are just OHP acetate sheets, with a sticker stuck on that I'd traced the image onto. This made it easier to cut it out!

Top row L-R: nightingale, lion, owl, hawk
Middle row L-R: Heron, dove, stork
Bottom: raven

The dove in the middle of the above pic actually didn't make the cut, it was too big and complicated so I replaced it with a different design in the end.

When it came to the printing, I kept things as simple as possible. I set up a production line in my kitchen, and prepared my stencils by spraying the backs with removable adhesive spray. I sort of fudged my way through the screen printing itself, using the basic understanding of the technique I had learned from the tutorials linked above.

I bought proper screen printing ink in black, found a foam brush in my box of craft tools, and dug out an old blood donation card. I pretty much just blobbed ink on over the stencil with the brush, then drew the card across to even the ink out inside the stencil and scrape off the excess. It worked pretty well!

The only real pain was the time it took for the ink to dry. I had to do each bird separately, as otherwise the stencils overlapped with the still wet image above. So I did 13 ravens, then waited a bit. Then 13 hawks. And so on until they were all done.

Just to give you an idea of the finished article, I got my husband to try one on. All I did to them after this point was paint the legs of the storks on (as they were very thin on the image and I wasn't sure I could cut the stencil delicately enough). The Lion is on the back, over the shoulder blade.

They turned out so much better than I was expecting, and once we had them out at the event and people were wearing them, I was even happier. No photos, sorry, I was far too busy! They generated some lovely roleplay as well, as people debated over which bird symbolised which God and why.

I have another one to make before the event in August, which gives me only 4 weeks. This one will be posher, made of thicker material (probably white cotton drill, I am going shopping on Saturday to find some), and will have black bias binding around the edge. I'll probably space the symbols out so half are on the front and half are on the back. Will share progress once I get started on it!

Friday, 18 July 2014

FO Friday: My Little Leo

I'm reaching back a few months with today's FO Friday, to a small project I completed just after Christmas. It was a birthday present for a good friend of mine.

My friend Kate has a very special horse. His name is Leo. He's almost 20, and has had a very checkered history, suffering from several injuries through his career and being almost written off more than once. When Kate met him, he was in very bad shape. Together, they have brought him back to good health, to the point where she has been able to ride him in various competitions. You can read more about them on their Facebook page.

Photo copyright Kate Lee

Isn't he beautiful? He's wearing a disabled badge in his coat because both Leo and Kate are a little wonky. She jokes that between them, they have four working legs.

I got it into my head that I wanted to make her a miniature version of Leo for her birthday. I hunted round Ravelry until I found a pattern that was perfect. It's a free pattern called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic School Age Ponies by Knit One Awe Some. I thought I had enough yarn in my stash for it, but ended up buying more as I didn't quite have as much as I thought.

I customised the pattern a little bit, to match as closely as I could to Leo's colouring. It's Hobbycraft's own brand value DK black yarn, and Sirdar Country Style DK for the brown, which makes him an interesting mix of acrylic and wool. I had a lot of fun with the mane and tail, but my favourite part has to be the felt pieces I attached afterwards. The eyes are cute enough, but in order to make My Little Leo as close to the original as possible, I cut out a felt disabled sign to sew to his bum.

Not pictured is the little red felt saddle I made, with the name Leo embroidered (probably quite badly) across the top. By the time I finished that I was in quite a rush to get the horse into the parcel and send it off to Kate! But you can kind of see it in the photo below, when My Little Leo met his namesake for the first time.

Photo copyright Kate Lee

Before you dash off to Tami's to read another few FO Friday posts, I do wonder if I can ask you a quick favour. Kate is currently in the middle of a fundraising attempt, which will either get her enough cash to sort out her new saddle, or at the very least help fund training and transport costs as she and Leo pursue a new para-equestrian career in endurance riding. I'm not asking you for money, but just a couple of minutes of your time. You see, Kate is a contender for this month's Mars Milk Sports Fund, and if she wins the public vote she will be awarded a prize of £1,000! All it takes is to click on THIS LINK, read Kate's story in her own words, then click the big blue vote button and enter your email address. In order for your vote to count, you do then have to open the email Mars will send you and click on the link in it to verify your vote. If you don't do that, your vote won't count. Sadly, only one vote per email address (otherwise I'd have been sat here for days repeatedly voting for her).

Kate would love you all forever if you did her this teeny tiny favour! You can follow her and Leo's journey by liking their Facebook page, or by following them on Twitter @FourGoodLegs.

Friday, 11 July 2014

FO: Shawls for LARP

I seem to have the worst luck when it comes to making shawls to wear to LARP. I made one back in 2011, which I wore for a season before I lost it at an event. So I made a replacement, but that has also now disappeared!

After going to the first event this year back in May without a shawl, I discovered very quickly that I don't like the evenings without something warm to wrap around my neck! So when I came back from that event, I decided to raid my stash and make myself a new shawl.

The pattern I chose is called Cheche a la sauce. I always choose crochet patterns for my LARP shawls because they work up so quickly. The yarn is Sirdar Supersoft Aran which I had left over from a couple of older projects. The red and green were used for the tomato hat I made for my friend's daughter, and the blue is from the Wycombe Wanderers hat and gloves I made for one of my colleagues. I made it bigger than the pattern, working the first section till I ran out of red. I did run out of the blue before finishing the border section, but you can't really tell.

I took this one to the last event, and it came in extremely handy as it rained very heavily on the Saturday evening (the biggest storm ever, according to the news reports!). However, the shawl is perhaps going to be too warm for the event this weekend, as the July event is traditionally the hottest of the year. So I ordered another ball of James C Brett Marble Chunky, and crocheted a third version of the original!

I've gone back to my original colour choice for this one, and hopefully I won't lose it almost as soon as I start wearing it!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Happy New Year!!

It's finally here! The new Year of Projects officially started on 1 July! Lists are popping up all over the place, and everyone is very excited to get started. All the details can be found on our Ravelry Group.

I've written and re-written my list a number of times this year, but have finally settled on a mixed approach, combining a number of different ideas into one list. Finishing WIPs, working from my Ravelry queue, using up stash and continuing work on my long term design project. My full list can be found on my Year of Projects 4 page. 23 different projects this year, which given I had a finishing total of 19 last year doesn't sound unreasonable. There's a nice mix of projects, from socks to shawls to household decor. Some will be fairly quick knits, while others may take a bit longer.

I'm not actually starting work on the list yet, as I am right in the middle of LARP season and busy sewing things for that, which I will share after the event (as they are sort of a surprise for people and I don't want to spoil that). Which means there probably wont be an update next Sunday as I will still be in a field!

In the mean time though, head on over to the group, and check out everyone else's lists!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Life long commitments

It is hard to believe, but halfway through my most recent absence from this blog, our wedding anniversary came and went. A whole year has passed since we got married, and it really doesn't feel like it. Life hasn't really changed all that much! 

We didn't really do anything to mark the occasion, as our anniversary coincides with the start of the LARP season, and so there will always be an event the weekend before! This year, there was also an event on the weekend itself, so my husband was not actually here for the day itself.

I marked the day by finally getting one of our wedding photos printed and framed for the mantlepiece. This was a real bargain, as the frame was £1.99 in a charity shop and the photo was a whole £3 from! I got luck with the frame, as it's A4 sized and exactly the same colour and style as the two frames I already had on the mantlepiece, plus our beautiful antique mirror we have above.

It is kind of strange having photos of myself and my husband on display in the house. It's not something we normally do. But wedding photos are different, I guess. They have their own rules!

I was also struck with inspiration for a rather long term sewing project. For the wedding, in place of a guest book, we had a "wishing tree" on which our guests could hang butterfly shaped message cards. After the wedding, the cards got packed away in a box, and I've had this ridiculous white tree hanging around my living room ever since. At Christmas we put ornaments on it and turned it into a ridiculous decoration you'd probably find on Pinterest. Now, it lives in the corner on top of the bookcases I keep all my crafting things in.

I decided it needed proper decoration, so I set about making an ornament to mark our anniversary. I dived into my fabric stash, and dug out some purple and dark pink felt, and scraps of the gorgeous pink batik fabric I bought to make LARP kit with a couple of years ago. The end result was this:

A little heart shaped ornament (it's about two inches across), marking our first anniversary. I embroidered the date on the back:

I will of course make one every year, although I haven't decided yet whether they will all be hearts, or whether I will explore other shapes as the years go by. At the moment, the tree still looks pretty bare, as it only has one ornament on it. I reckon by the time we reach our fifth anniversary it will start to look really pretty!

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